Christian Controversies Conference

The third annual Christian Controversies Conference took place on 20 March 2013 at Chester Cathedral attracting 9 schools and 250 plus participants.  The keynote speaker was theologian and TV presenter, Dr. Robert Beckford who held the complete attention of the participants as he traced the roots of racism to some of the earliest chapters of Genesis, in his presentation of "the Biblical roots of racism".  Questions that followed showed how intently the audience of GCSE and A-level students had been listening.  He then challenged A-level students in the Chapter House with: "The Lord's prayer - a revolutionary manifesto?"  Leading the second workshop for A-level students was Dr. Paul Middleton from Chester University, who presented on, "Caught in a time warp? The Churches' Response to Same-Sex Marriage", which engendered much discussion.

Meanwhile GCSE students focussed on Christian responses to Crime and Punishment in sessions with Rev. Philip Berry and local RE teacher Sue Nutall or Father Paul Shaw and Rev'd Shawn Verhey.  Rev'd Billy McCurrie added to this debate on crime and punishment detailing his life before and after his conversion to Christianity in a session entitled "Can God forgive a terrorist?"

The busy programme closed with a question and answer discussion with an ecumenical panel allowing GCSE and A-level students to compare denominational responses.  On the ecumenical panel were: Canon Peter Howell-Jones Vice Dean of Chester Cathedral, Ruth Pickles Ex-Vice-President of the Methodist Conference as well as seminar leaders from the day.  Paul North, the Chester Schools Christian Worker who provided chaplaincy support at lunchtime had the difficult task of selecting the best out of an excellent array of questions which the students had devised.  The topics covered were: homosexuality, abortion, life after death, Biblical interpretation and finally, "If God is omnipresent, why is he so hard to find?" which we all thought was a good slogan for a T-Shirt.

Student comments on the day included: "It was boss", "Dr. Beckford was very funny and introduced me to some great points that will help me in my exams and the way I think", and with regard to the panel, "It was like mock the week".  Ruth Pickles commented: "Minds were stretched-including those on the panel which consisted of clergy and lay theologians.  This Conference was a very good example of Methodist-Anglican collaboration."

The Conference was jointly organized by Heather Staniland - District Development Enabler for the Chester and Stoke-on-Trent District and Nicola Preston, Education Officer at Chester Cathedral.

 

 

« Back to District News page